Published on March 26th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich7
By The Power Of Silat!
Mat Goceng Review
Mat Goceng is a game most gamers probably haven’t heard of. It is a popular card game that was created, distributed and played all over Indonesia and Mat Goceng is ready to make his international journey to the gamers of Amercia, Europe and more! Set in 1922, this game followers main character, Mat Goceng who is a skilled in Silat (martial arts of Indonesia) and a vrijeman or “freeman” who wants to protect his village from Dutch rule. The game takes place in Batavia which later becomes Jakarta: the modern-day capital of Indonesia. In addition to Mat Goceng, there is a list of characters looking to make their own fortunes and accomplish their own objectives during the game. So get ready and put up yer dukes-this here is a fighting game!
Since Mat Goceng is transitioning to international markets the game box and cards we received are still in their native language, but luckily the designers at Manikmaya Games included English translated rules. It was a long journey for the game to end up in Seattle and luckily the game box didn’t sustain any serious damages. The box itself is a slightly lower in quality compared to most other games on my shelf. The design was mounted on the box first and then folded into the box shape as there are some bubbles in the packaging between the art and the cardboard. While the box and insert could use an upgrade, the printed cards are of a good quality. My favorite pieces of the game are actually the cardboard money tokens and punch token which are beefy cardboard chits that are quickly passed around the table between players.
Where Mat Goceng excels in is its story and theme. The characters are part of an endearing and classic story of an underdog fighting for a belief and the other characters interwoven on his way to success. Each character has a concise backstory and motivation which explains their unique win condition. The art is reminiscent of anime with humorous reaction faces and poses and features a small range of interesting characters from Indonesia, the Middle East and China. For a game that potentially lasts less than 20 minutes, Mat Goceng makes a steadfast impression.
The characters are diverse and provide a nice breath of non-euro-centric fresh air. Luckily the gameplay is a style that everyone is familiar with. For those that enjoy turned-based fighting games like Yomi or Pokemon, May Goceng offers an even quicker and more simplistic battling game. To start the game each character receives two silver, a gold (which equals three silver) and five cards from the skills deck. Each player is randomly dealt a character following the chart of allowable characters in the rule book and keeps their identity hidden until they are reduced to 1 stamina. For our first try, we had three players which means we could only include and deal out Mat Goceng, Nyi Kencleng and Rukaard Cere. Players keep their identity hidden and place their character face down and turning the card so that the three coffee cups are at the top. The coffee cups indicate a player’s stamina. Players only lose stamina if they lose a battle. A game is over once one player loses all of their stamina.
At the start of each player’s turn, the player must challenge a player to a battle as part of the Challenge Phase. The challenged player may choose to reconcile the fight by paying the active player two silver coins. The active player must continue to challenge players to a fight until a player accepts or all players reconcile. Once a challenged player accepts the fight from the active player, those two players move into the Battle Phase. The Battle Phase is initiated by the active player who puts down a skill card which attacks the challenged player. The challenged player receives the punch token and must respond with a skill card of their own and send the punch token back. Players are trying to form combos as marked by the colorful fists in the upper left corner and play special cards to help their combos or interfere with their opponent’s stack. At any time, players can try to negotiate for help from other players at the table usually for the promise of extra coins. This ‘Extra Power’ could help form alliances. A battle continues until a player cannot continue their combo. The loser concedes the match, lose a stamina and both players in the battle draw up to a hand of five.
As I mentioned earlier Mat Goceng is a unique game as all players have different objectives to win the game. It isn’t about being ‘king of the mountain’ or being the last one alive after a flurry of punches. The merchant-focused characters win if they have the most money; the assassin wins if Nyi does not survive the game; and Mat Goceng wins if Nyi is still alive once the game is over. The other three characters have similar linking objectives and adding them to the mix adds even more fun.
If you have 20 minutes to spare then you would have time to play Mat Goceng. I thoroughly support casual card games that aren’t about castles, farming, the Renaissance, zombies or generic fantasy. Mat Goceng shows us characters with a historically fictional background that isn’t centered around Europe or America. Its gameplay is also diversified by having characters with unique objectives and the possibility of more than one victor. My recommendation to have the best time playing Mat Goceng is to have as many players as possible. Our first game was the three-player version and just like three-player Magic the Gathering or Munchkin it is all to easy to gang up on one person and beat them down quickly. The full six player game adds more people to fight, more opportunities and opponents to ask for help and allow multiple alliances to form.